Richard Buxton: Neymar back with a bang
Brazilian star scores on return from three-month injury layoff
More than just Neymar defines this Brazil side heading into the World Cup.
Yet the world's most expensive player continues to steal focus as their star attraction and catalyst. Even at half-strength, he remains very much the main event in his own right.
Anfield's 40,000-strong crowd cheered loudest for his name above all others ahead of a 2-0 win over Croatia in their penultimate friendly last night.
His first outing in 99 days was still greeted as if it were the second coming rather than a second-half cameo. Little more than three months since his debut season for Paris Saint-Germain ended, Neymar galvanised the five-time world champions' run-up to Russia.
One second-half goal was all it took to spark the Selecao back into life.
Receiving a pass from Philippe Coutinho, Neymar cut into the area, beating Sime Vrsaljko and Duje Caleta-Car with impressive close control and dribbling, before burying a shot into the roof of the goal from the edge of the six-yard area.
Roberto Firmino made it 2-0 in injury-time.
In 2014, Neymar had carried a nation's hopes and dreams on his shoulders as the poster boy for Brazilian football.
When disaster struck, however, any cavalier spirit he had fostered disappeared.
Now it is Tite, rather than the talisman, who has assumed a star billing on the small screen.
And with good reason; he is the saviour that Brazil required in the wake of their homeland humiliation by Germany.
Common sense belatedly prevailed after nostalgia had gifted Dunga a chance to take a potentially redemptive spell in charge of the national side.
Under Brazil's ex-World Cup-winning captain, the Selecao never shook off their over-reliance on Neymar, resulting in a group-stage exit from the Copa America Centenario.
It may have also been the difference between refinement and rustiness in their first post-season excursion.
The tolls of a campaign on players who became Champions League winners and champions of both La Liga and the English Premier League were evident from the outset.
Dunga made Brazil too defensive - a crime of epic proportions for the founding fathers of "joga bonito" - while his predecessor Luiz Felipe Scolari was far too aloof in his approach.
Tite's marriage of a firm foundation and players able to produce flowing attacks still possesses drawbacks, as evidenced by an encounter where Croatia regularly sparked panic in and around Alisson's goal through a combination of set-pieces and counter-attacking.
Croatia represented the closest challenge to the solidity that Tite's side will face when they face Serbia in Moscow on June 27. That Group E finale will be anything other than the procession many had been led to believe on the current evidence.
As it did four years ago, the onus threatens to again fall on Neymar this summer.
No longer does he stand alone but Brazil will need to raise the bar or risk the fanfare staying weighted heavily in his favour.
BRAZIL: Alisson, Danilo, Thiago Silva, Miranda (Marquinhos 65), Marcelo (Filipe Luis 60), Paulinho, Casemiro, Fernandinho (Neymar 46), Willian (Taison 82), Gabriel Jesus (Roberto Firmino 60), Philippe Coutinho (Fred 82)
CROATIA: Danijel Subasic, Sime Vrsaljko (Tin Jedvaj 87), Dejan Lovren (Duje Caleta-Car 52), Vedran Corluka, Domagoj Vida, Milan Badelj (Marcelo Brozovic 61), Ivan Rakitic (Filip Bradaric 83), Luka Modric (Mateo Kovacic 58), Ivan Perisic, Ante Rebic (Marko Pjaca 64), Andrej Kramaric